Are you feeling a little overheated lately? Like a pressure cooker that needs to blow off some steam?
Summer affords us quite a lot of internal energy. Though we want to release it, intense exercise can contribute to the Ayurvedic qualities of pitta, which leaves us overheated, and less than calm, cool, and collected—not to mention exhausted.
When you feel this way, it can help to turn to a slow yoga practice, one that allows you to move a little before you settle in and chill out in restorative poses. As you flow through the earlier part of the sequence, play with “sandwiching” the breath so that it begins before your movement and carries on even after you’ve settled into the pose.
A warm up to cool down
Come to your mat, softening your eyes and finding your hands and knees. Start to flow between Cat Pose and Cow Pose, letting the inhale take you into a swayback and on the exhale round your back. Take a few breaths here as you find your flow.
Tuck your toes and come to Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) and “walk your dog” by bending one knee and then the other. Nod your head or take a deep breath or a few sighs to feel yourself in your practice.
Lazily walk your feet to the front of your space, taking an easy hang in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and letting go.
Bend your knees to slowly roll up to standing and bring your hands together in prayer (Añjalī Mudra). Your feet can be comfortably hip-width apart. Take a few breaths here.
Practice standing Surya Namaskar As (Sun Salutation) that are modified to be less exhausting. Inhale and raise your arms above your head and stretch tall in Urdhva Hastāsana (Upward Salute), then exhale and fold forward with a soft bend in your knees into Uttanāsana (Standing Forward Bend). Inhale as you slide your hands up your shins and lift your chest halfway to standing in Ardha Uttanasana (Standing Half Forward Bend), and then exhale fully and fold again. Inhale and lift your arms up to Urdhva Hastāsana with that same soft bend in the knees, then bring your hands to prayer again in Mountain Pose. Slowly repeating this three times. After your third repetition, forward fold to Uttanāsana and remain here for as long as you like. Eventually, make your way to Tadasana (Mountain Pose).
Low Lunge to Pyramid
(No, you’re not seeing double from the heat!) From Mountain Pose, take a slow inhale and step your right foot back to Anjanayasana (Low Lunge). Exhale and gently lower your back knee to the ground. Use your inhale to fill your chest and lift your arms alongside your ears. On an exhale, lower your hands, start to straighten both legs, and fold over your front leg in a stretch similar to Pārśvottanāsana (Pyramid Pose). Slowly repeat this flowing movement 4–8 times.
Side Lunge Flow
From Low Lunge, walk both hands to your right, pivot your toes to face the right long side of your mat, and start to straighten and lengthen your legs to Prasārita Pādottānāsana (Straddle Forward Fold). Bend your right knee and walk your hands toward the right, lengthening your left leg. Take a few breaths there, imagining that you’re breathing into your inner left leg, and then play with going back and forth between both sides, bending one knee and straightening the other. Take your time as you repeat 3–5 times.
Still facing the long side of your mat, walk your hands back to the center. Straight and lengthen both legs, and then interlace your hands behind your low back or hold onto a strap, towel, or sweatshirt. Allowing your head to remain heavy, inhale and begin to straighten your arms and lift your hands towards the sky for 4–8 breaths. As you breathe, notice how the inhalation encourages your upper chest and shoulders to feel more spacious. Eventually, with a sigh, release your hands to the ground and pause here like a rag doll.
Walk your hands straight forward, shoulder-distance apart, as you lengthen your back and lift your head. Exhale and pivot on the ball of your left foot, walking your hands forward to the front of your mat in Low Lunge. Step your back foot forward, and repeat Low Lunge to Pyramid and Side Lunge Flow on the second side. Come back to the front of the mat.
Setu Bandasana (Bridge Flow)
From Low Lunge, step your front foot back, lower your knees, and lie down on your back. Place the bottoms of your feet on the earth about hip-width apart. Bring one hand to the back of your neck for a“neck check” to be sure you’re preserving that crucial curve of the neck: Your hand should be able to slide just underneath your neck.
Then bring both hands down along your sides. Beginning with an inhale, slowly lift your hips and arms. Allow your arms to travel all the way over your head—the back of your hands might touch the ground. On the next exhale, slowly lower your hands and hips, grounding your low back to the earth. Continue for 4–8 breaths, playing with allowing your breath to instigate the movement, and grounding your heels into the earth to engage your glutes. Lower your back to the mat and rest with your arms alongside your body.
Supta Matsyendrasana (Reclining Spinal Twist)
Remain on your back with your knees resting together and your low back broad across the earth. Take a constructive rest for 4–5 breaths. Draw your right knee into your chest, lower your knee to the left, and shift your hips a little to the right. Open your right arm wide—circling that arm to extend your range of motion or find a sweet spot and stay still as you rest for 5–8 breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Come to sit in a comfortable seated position with your spine long. Warm your hands by rubbing them together, then cup the left side of your neck with your left palm. Allow your head to relax and rest heavily to the left side, keeping your hand in place so that it won’t drop completely. Reach your right arm and fingers out to the side. You may feel this in your forearms or fingers. (You want to feel a stretch, not a strain. If it’s too much sensation, you can always exit by using your left hand to lift the head.)
With your head heavy like a weight, nod your head slowly, allowing your jaw and eyes to relax. One option is to turn your right hand to the sky, or even extend your wrist until your fingers point down (pictured). Be sure to use your left hand to lift your head and stack it on your spine when you feel ready. Roll the shoulders a little and see how it feels. Practice on the second side, always using your hand to help bring your head back up at the end.
Sitali Pranayama (Cooling Breath)
With your chin level to the earth, round your lips as if you were breathing through a straw. Curl your tongue—or if that isn’t possible, bring your tongue over your lower lip until it curves with the lips. On an inhale drawl the breath in across the natural air conditioner of the tongue. Exhale out your nose. Repeat the inhale through the valve of the lips and tongue—focusing on the feeling of cool. Imagine you can draw that cool sensation anywhere in the body that feels heated. Practice for 2–3 minutes.
Parivrtta Janu Sirsasana (Revolved Head-of-the-Knee Pose)
Bend your left knee and bring the bottom of your left foot near your inner right thigh. Extend your right leg out to the side somewhat. On an inhale, lift both your arms high, and then bend to the right by placing your right hand or elbow on the inside of your right leg. Breathe directly into the left side of your body, encouraging space between the inner ribs for 5–8 breaths. To move to the other side, inhale and reach your arms up, and then switch the position of your legs and lean over to the left.
Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Legged Seated Forward Bend)
Bring both your legs out as wide as is comfortable for you into a straddle. Press your palms into the earth alongside your hips as you lift your seat and scoot it slightly back so your hips tilt forward. Then initiate your forward fold by hinging at your hips. Since there’s a great deal of biodiversity in the way the hip joints are made, your pose might look much different than the one pictured. Your chest may remain far, far from the ground, and that’s perfectly alright. Allow your upper body to relax and gravity to do the work for 8-16 breaths.
Slowly walk your hands back and, after you come upright, use your hands to draw your legs together. Gently flop or wiggle your legs a little to release any tension.
Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
Sitting with a pillow or bolster behind you, bend your knees and bring them together. Open your knees out to the sides with the bottoms of your feet touching, then lie down on the pillow. Be sure you want to feel supported and comfortable. Depending on the firmness of your pillow and the curve of the lower back, you may prefer your low back closer or further away from the pillow than pictured. Bring your arms open wide and relax. Since this hip-opening can get heated in a matter of minutes, bring your legs out long like Savāsana when you need.
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
If your legs aren’t already straight, let them lengthen. Bring your arms to rest at your sides and allow your limbs to rest as wide as makes you feel relaxed. Rest on your pillow or remove it for a more traditional Savāsana. Stay here and “chill” for 5–8 minutes.